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The most important art collector on TV

7 April 2022

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

As I am sure you know, Rakewell enjoys nothing more than getting to grips with a great art collection. Less obviously, Rakewell also enjoys nothing more than a good television show. But every so often, when these two come together, Rakewell cannot help but feel that television has no understanding of what it is to be a collector or how great art collections are made.

Those with longer memories might recall how, at one stage, Lovejoy was the only dealer depicted on the small screen. So, imagine our delight when the utterly brilliant Hacks appeared and not only portrayed real human emotions but also a truthful representation of collecting.

Hacks is the marvellously acerbic drama from HBO Max about a slightly long-in-the-tooth comedian Deborah Vance, played by Jean Smart, who may or may not be based upon the life of the peerless Joan Rivers. Like Rivers, Deborah has a wonderfully lavish home, appears on QVC (selling clothes rather than jewellery) and does not suffer fools gladly.

In one glorious episode we find Ms Vance sitting upon what Rakewell would like to call a canapé but accepts might merely be a sofa in front of a wonderful Franz Klein. A collection of antique busts can be found in her hall and the work of other Abstract Expressionist masters are found elsewhere throughout the house.

We know that Deborah understands the value of art when she photographs every object in a friend’s collection in order to exercise a little blackmail. Not only does she appreciate the value of art – she knows how to use it too.

But the most exciting moment is when she in pursuit of a Jean Royère pepper shaker — do not worry, there will be no spoilers here (only a plea that you watch this great series), save to say that Ms Vance demonstrates the correct level of obsession by driving through the endless desert in pursuit of her desired object. Rakewell is not sure that Royére ever made cruets, but the level of obsession and attention to detail in this episode feel like one of the truest representations of what is to have the collecting gene within one – satisfaction remains perpetually elusive, but there is always the chance that one object just might be the answer. If only all television could understand this, perhaps we wouldn’t have to suffer any more ugly drama on the small screen.

Got a story for Rakewell? Get in touch at rakewell@apollomag.com or via @Rakewelltweets.